Pereiro's seizure of yellow doesn't trouble Landis
Posted: Saturday July 15, 2006 2:59PM; Updated: Saturday July 15, 2006 2:59PM
Oscar Pereiro overcame a nearly 29-minute deficit to take the yellow jersey.
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
MONTELIMAR, France -- Parked in the shade beneath gigantic sycamores on the Avenue Jean Moulin in Beziers on Saturday morning, the Phonak team bus had two large, stuffed lions pressed up against the windshield -- one for each day its captain, Floyd Landis, had stood on the podium in a yellow jersey.
No new lion today. On the longest, hottest day of a long, hot race -- temperatures on 230-kilometer push through the Languedoc and the Rhone Valley hovered well over 100 degrees -- Landis yielded the jersey to his former teammate, Oscar Pereiro, a Spaniard who now rides for Caisse-Epargne. As he sought shelter from the heat inside the bus 20 minutes before Saturday's start, Phonak rider Robbie Hunter had coasted past OLN's Frankie Andreu, a former Tour rider.
"How are the legs feeling?" Andreu asked.
"You know exactly how they're feeling at this point in the race," replied Hunter, who, like virtually everyone in the peloton, is all but cooked by now, trying to get to Monday's rest day before the suffering begins in the Alps, the following day.
Little wonder, then, that when a five-man break including Pereiro and eventual stage winner Jens Voigt got away just 23 kilometers out of Beziers, the Phonaks were not exactly panic-stricken. As the escapees pulled further and further ahead, the possibility arose that Pereiro, who, after a disastrous performance in the Pyrenees, went into Saturday's stage almost 29 minutes behind Landis, might actually make up that time and steal the jersey. As that possibility became more and more likely, Landis and his teammates responded by ... not responding. They seemed to be saying, with their apathy, let him have it.
Think about it. Despite featuring the most talented rider in this Tour -- that would be Landis -- it is not its most talented team. By a long shot. Had Landis and his mates chosen to have defend the jersey Saturday, they would've spent five-plus hours in the furnace at the front of the peloton, sapping strength from their legs, all for the right to do it tomorrow. Having ceded yellow to Pereiro, the Phonaks can now lay low and bide their time during Sunday's 180-kilometer stage from here to Gap, at the base of the Alps. They can start marshalling their strength for next Tuesday's mountain stage, which features a pair of climbs -- the Col d'Izoard and the Alpe d'Huez, which the Tour has dubbed hors categorie, beyond category -- so difficult, our French friends seem to saying, that to attempt to quantify them is to insult their majesty.